A Teenager Who Doesn’t Want To Drive?

When your teen's fears prevent him from getting behind the wheel, what's are some ways a parent can help?

By Sarah Hamaker

Q: My 16-year-old son has yet to want to drive. I think he’s afraid, too. Even his friends drive and he doesn’t seem to care. Also, we plan on buying him a car because the minivan isn’t suitable for him, and my husband’s car has manual transmission. He’s insisting that driving is too dangerous. This is on par with some of his other fears, and his social immaturity, but I don’t want to encourage his fears or push him into driving if he isn’t ready. What can we do?

A: I imagine there are many parents of teenagers out there who are wishing their 16-year-olds didn’t want to drive, either. And yet, I hear your concerns. First, I wouldn’t worry overmuch about this. He’ll likely outgrow his fear of driving on his own if you stop making a big deal about it.

Second, hold off on the car buying for a while. Don’t mention it, don’t harp on it, just let the whole thing drop.

Third, you’re not coddling him to delay his driving. Let him pick the right time for him to learn. However, if his not driving starts to put more pressure on the family—for example, he has a part-time job that requires picking up and dropping off that interferes with the rest of the family schedule—then you can help him want to learn to drive by easing back on being his chauffeur. Not that you refuse to take him places, but that you only do so when it’s convenient for him.

A final thought: stop worrying about his fear of driving or his fears in general. The more you talk about fears with a child—no matter the age—the more those fears can become real to the kid. Somehow, it can legitimize the fears in the child’s mind. If he starts talking about his fear of driving, change the subject. If he can’t seem to stop talking about his fears in general, you can tell him something like, “Oh, we’ve already talked about that and there’s nothing else for me to add.”

Do you have a parenting question you would like to see answered on this blog? Email Sarah with Parenting Question in the subject line. Sign up for Practical Parenting, Sarah’s a free, monthly e-newsletter with commonsense advice on child rearing, by visiting www.parentcoachnova.com and clicking on the newsletter tab.

Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coach Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.parentcoachnova.com and follow her on Twitter @novaparentcoach.


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Douglas Stewart May 18, 2013 at 03:19 PM
It's quite rational for anyone -- especially a beginning driver -- to have a fear of driving in this area. The bigger issue is that to get most anywhere in Fairfax, driving is often the only viable option. Kids and young adults around the country are generally much less interested than their parents' generation in driving and are more interested in living in places where they can walk, bicycle and use transit.
JustTheFacts May 24, 2013 at 12:49 PM
I had the same fear as a teenager. My fear was a combination of a few things. 1) If I didn't pass the test, my mom was going to be angry with me. 2) If I got my license, I knew she would (and did) expect more out of me. I was pretty upset when my girlfriend, who was a year older got her license. After that, my mom pushed me to drive. Sure enough once I got my license, she assigned me with multiple tasks that were her tasks. She would sign a blank check and send me grocery shopping for the entire family. I became responsible for getting my younger brother back and forth from daycare. I even made a couple of runs to the ABC store for her. These were my fears in connection to getting my driver's license.


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